Often the first question I get asked by potential AirBnB Management clients is “what are your fees?”. While this is obviously a logical and important question, it suggests that the only difference between any 2 management companies might be the fees they charge. This is simply not the case!
When discussing with any AirBnB Management company about running your property as serviced accommodation ask them these 10 questions and you will no doubt see differences in responses you get!
1. How will we measure success?
Targets. Income, Occupancy etc. These need to be realistic and will be specific to each property. They will depend on type of customer the property is aimed at. A budget property will have a much lower income target than a top spec penthouse. Occupancy levels, while relevant can also be a vanity metric. Comparing occupancy levels with average price per night is therefore much more useful. 100% occupancy at £20 per night is obviously ridiculous compared to 60% occupancy at £300 per night.
It’s also important to have discussions around minimum lengths of stay. Ultimately 1 night stays will not be profitable so steer clear of anyone who looks at you funny when you ask about what their minimum length of stay is. It means they don’t have one! We have a 3 night minimum stay throughout the year which reduces to 2 if we’re trying to get some last minute bookings. We will also take 1 night bookings if there is a gap but will always INCREASE the price as we DECREASE the minimum stay. We also offer discounts for people staying longer as these are much more profitable.
2. What type of guests will be staying?
You need to ensure that any potential AirBnB management company will fill your property with a certain kind of guest. No stag and hens! No parties! No-one that will piss off the neighbours! There is also a shady underworld of people who use serviced apartments! Sex workers and criminals using stolen credit cards. At Central Belfast Apartments we have vetting procedures in place to get these bookings cancelled before they have a chance to arrive.
Check with any potential management company what procedures they have in place to spot and stop these bookings. It’s important to remember however that inevitably the odd booking can still slip through the net. The types of guests you DO want are corporate guests, business travellers, contractors, families etc
3. What websites will the property be listed on?
Your property needs maximum exposure and visibility on all major booking sites in order to be successful. Everyone is on Airbnb! Booking.com is the really big player but it can take some getting used to and there are lots of little tricks to get the best out of it and even more mistakes to avoid! Expedia is crucial too as it opens up loads of others like Hotels.com.
It’s also really important that the hosting management company has card processing facilities so that they can recoup money from guests in the event of any damage to your property. It’s no good taking a £250 security deposit if a guest causes thousands of pounds worth of damage! Central Belfast Apartments list our properties on every booking site around. I dare you to find one we aren’t on! On top of that we have built strong relationships with specialised corporate booking agencies who come direct to us with inquiries.
4. What rate plans do you employ?
Effective rate plans and structures are probably the most essential aspect of serviced accommodation. And the area that newbies will struggle to get to grips with most. It’s crucial to have many different rates available and that they all change from day to day in order to remain competitive. It’s important to not just have 1 price per night! Providing options that cater for all groups and lengths of stay.
These rates change depending on what days guests are staying (weekends more expensive than weekdays), which month and time of the year (prices have to reflect demand which dips in winter), how many people are staying in the property (If a property sleeps 6 it’s sensible to charge a higher price for 6 people staying than for 2), how long the stay is (If someone is staying for 2 nights they should expect to pay higher prices than someone staying for 2 weeks). Free cancellation rates which are more expensive than non refundable rates. At Central Belfast Apartments we have around 20 rates for each apartment for each day. That ensures no matter what requirements are searched for by potential guests, we have a competitive rate to offer them.
5. What about when something breaks?
Maintenance issues need to be fixed immediately. Accidents happen and from time to time guests will break things. Then there are times when things just break on their own like bulbs going or a fault with the boiler or Wi-Fi. It’s important that these issues are dealt with immediately or they will start to have a major impact on the ability of the property to attract future bookings because reviews will start to slip. This is so important and 1 of the differences between serviced accommodation and long term lettings.
Guests pay a lot of money to stay in these properties and are often only here for a few days. If an issue is not fixed during their stay then their customer service experience will be poor and they will leave a negative review. Likewise if an issue is fixed promptly then it can actually become an opportunity for a guest to leave a really positive review! Another bonus of managing so many properties is that if the worst happens and there is a proper disaster like a boiler breakdown, we can often move guests to another property for the duration of their stay.
6. What standard of finish do you provide for guests?
Little touches of class like hotel quality linen, free toiletries and welcome packs. These little things can make all the difference when it comes to guest satisfaction and the review they write after they leave. They are relatively inexpensive but can really impress guests! Leasing high end, starched, white linen is essential. It also ensures that when the quality goes the bedding goes in the bin and they get replaced with brand-new high-quality items. If someone suggests washing and ironing (sometimes not even ironed!) bed linen you or they provide, end the conversation.
A welcome pack of some tea, coffee, milk and a bottle of wine is best practice in the industry and guests now come to expect it. The wine is without doubt the most expensive part of the welcome pack but it gets whoops and cheers from guests when they arrive and gets everything off to the right start. Cutting corners and not paying for these things may save a few pounds in the short term but in the long term your property will be left behind.
7. Do you have a presence in the industry?
Relationships with other operators in the industry can be really effective. Developing relationships with our competitors is important. It’s a small city and we can all work together to help each other out with referrals etc! Especially when it comes to warnings about bad guests! I put out a lot of free content on various Facebook groups as well as YouTube and these blogs. I’ve also set up the Belfast Serviced Accommodation Network where serviced apartment operators can all come together to discuss issues or just vent!
8. Do you have your own website to take direct bookings?
A website to take direct bookings is 100% essential! Most OTA (online travel agent) commission is around 15% which is huge! Having a website can ensure this money goes to you instead of the likes of Booking.com. We put our money where our mouth is and actually take our commission AFTER the OTA’s resulting in a significant saving for our owners. It is a disgrace if a significant portion of any management company’s bookings are not direct bookings in this day and age. Having a website also allows direct marketing like Google Ads and SEO leading to even more direct enquiries coming from potential guests.
9. Corporate contacts
Corporate bookings can be among the most profitable bookings. Even though the agreed nightly rate might be much lower than you would normally advertise to tourists, the length of stay and type of guests makes these bookings potential goldmines. If a corporate guest stays 2 months there is obviously only 1 welcome pack. Weekly spruce cleans and linen changes massively reduce the costs involved in the booking. The types of guest that come to stay this long are often lone travellers out at work all day. They generally leave the property spotless and often return again and again. It is really important that any management company can secure these types of bookings for your property. At Central Belfast Apartments we have relationships with many different corporate booking agents and get loads of direct enquiries from businesses on a weekly basis.
10. What other properties do you currently manage and how well are they doing?
This is the last and ultimately the most important question! Do your due diligence on what your potential management company currently offer. Make sure you check out the reviews on the other properties they manage. If you google the name of any of their properties you will find their booking.com, Expedia listings, TripAdvisor etc. The viability of your property for serviced accommodation will be based on the reviews the managing agent can achieve. If the reviews are crap then ultimately they will struggle to fill the property and you won’t make much money! Also if the reviews are not good then it suggests there is something lacking in the management company’s attention to detail or attitude to customer service. I am really proud to say that the apartments managed by Central Belfast Apartments consistently achieve the highest review scores in the city.